Cal Pundit gives a polite response via email to my post about Carter:

I’m not all that thrilled with Carter’s statements myself, so I’m not going to go way out on a limb to defend them.

But I’ll go out a little way because I think there’s more similarity here than you’re giving credit for. In the context of what Carter was doing, which was trying to defuse tensions in a post-presidential role, he has to tread softly and try to gain some credibility and trust with both sides. If he flies into Korea and immediately makes a public statement about what a bad man Kim Il Sung is, he has no chance at all of defusing the situation.

Bloggers and pundits, of course, can say anything we want because nobody cares about us. But diplomats who deal with situations face to face have to be more careful if they want to have any chance of getting results.

I think the main question is whether Carter has been effective, and I’d argue that he has. He did good work at Camp David, good work in Haiti, and good work in N. Korea (even the South Koreans praised his role there). In the peacekeeping biz failure is the norm, so even two or three successes out of a dozen isn’t a bad score .

(Of course, motivation is the key. I think Carter is genuinely dedicated to peacemaking, whether you like his tactics or not. But if you think that he’s merely trying to be a sycophant for some reason, then there’s not much to discuss.)

I think it has been demonstrated pretty effectively that Carter only really seeks the appearance of peace as the bottom line. I’m sure if he could snap his fingers and make everyone sincerely love each other, he would do so. But I’m sure he’s intelligent enough to know that in many (if not most) cases, that kind of long-term resolution isn’t possible, and so he thinks it’s almost as good (or at least an acceptable alternative) to have lots of meetings and photo-ops with handshakes, thinking that is genuine progress.

And his track record is not nearly as good as people make it out to be. The Camp David accords were already agreed upon before Carter had anything to do with the situation. He was just the one signing the cheques to give the financial backing required after the real diplomatic grunt work had been done.

Also, I mentioned before how Carter’s rhetoric is beyond the pale . He could easily have met/cooperated with these leaders without treating them like they were genuinely good human beings. Bush showed that in his comments on Musharraf, and made Carter’s behavior look just plain ugly.

And I think this sort of behavior actually does betray a sense of him wishing to “suck up” to them. I think there are several possibilities as to why he would do this:

1) He has the Clinton disease. He instantly wants to be liked by anyone and everyone, and will say and do anything in the moment to accomplish that, whoever the audience is. I don’t think this is a very likely answer though, since he has never shown any kind of consideration for Israel, calling them the “Bull Conners” of the middle east, heaping scorn upon them that he wouldn’t dream of saying about any of his dear friends like Castro or Kim Il Sung, so I think there is a definite ideological component in choosing upon whom he bestows his effusive praise.

2) He is, in some ways, reflexively anti-American. I realize this sounds like a crazy, paranoid charge to make about a former president, but without fail, he has always sought out the nations that are most hostile and most opposed to the United States ideologically. Perhaps he merely feels he is being balanced and trying to “engage” the other side in discussion. Even if that is the case, he has gone about it in an extremely nauseating and just plain awful way, always offering apologies for the supposed “crimes” of his country and lauding the “progress” in the craptastic places he visits .

I mean, for God’s sake, the man was genuinely disappointed that the Sandanistas didn’t win in a democratic election. Had they won, he would have championed it as the will of the people, but he was definitively sour about the fact that the will of the people rejected the anti-US, socialist ticket.

What diplomatic purpose did that attitude serve?

3) He enjoys the spotlight offered to him by always “showing up” the current president, taking the posed role of the defiant maverick.

Now, I’m not going to do some sort of psychological analysis on Carter to discern which of these is the true cause for his reprehensible behavior, but I would hazard a guess that it’s a combination of all three reasons, and I would certainly not discount that there could be others. But what I cannot see for the life of me at this point, is any reason for his actions that wouldn’t stand out as foolish, morally bankrupt or selfish.

last update : 26-5-2018

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